Bordering Afghanistan and Iran, Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province by size – around 55 per cent of land mass – but also its smallest by population: less than five per cent at 12.3 million, which is less than the population of Karachi city in Sindh alone. It is arguably also Pakistan’s most conflicted and unstable territories thanks to its proximity with southern Afghanistan and eastern Iran, both of whom have in recent decades influenced events in Balochistan.
This has included the phenomenon of Taliban that has been based in Kandahar near Quetta the capital of Balochistan, as well as bloody resistance by militant groups based in eastern Iran to theocratic power in Tehran. These militant overtones in both countries bordering this southwest Pakistani province has promoted outsized involvement of the country’s security establishment locally that in turn has fueled militancy in Balochistan, resistance to security forces, destabilization of politics and an exacerbation of ethnic tensions between the province’s Baloch and Pashtun populations.
This has prevented stable governments in the province and allowed resentment at the lack of socio-economic priorities by the authorities that this instability entails. Security considerations over socio-economic development has had a deep and debilitating impact on media freedoms in the province. Balochistan is one of the most dangerous regions in Pakistan to practice journalism with both non-state and state actors targeting media practitioners for their perceived lack of support for their points of view by the journalists.
In recent years, this has resulted in largescale forced censorship and self-censorship, shuttering of bureau offices in Quetta, retrenchment of staff and, resultantly, in a drastic drop in volumes of independent news, views and information from and about Balochistan. Some internet-based non-legacy, indie media platforms are trying to bridge this gap, but Balochistan remains a sort of black hole of information when it comes to the media landscape of Pakistan.